Monday, August 30, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
I tried to post photos earlier, but was unable to until tonight. Here are a few. We went to the beach together where the girls saw the ocean for the first time, and the boys really played in it together for the first time as well. The past few visits it has been too chilly to wade in, and we plan on another trip soon WITH bathing suits! We visited the Channel Islands Harbor Visitors Center and learned a lot while there too.
Here's the gang at the Ventura Pier, where we walked and saw fisherman, surfers and seagulls.
In real life, school is always in session! The learning never stops as long as one is intellectually curious...the single most important thing I hope we can manage to instill in the kids.
At the airshow the kids had a lot of fun. I loved the above warning on the airplane the pilot let us look at closely!
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Glen Coffee on Sudden Retirement: 'I've Already Told Christ It's Time to Go'
- Say Something »
8/14/2010 4:30 PM ET By FanHouse Staff
- FanHouse Staff
"Actually when I look back I feel I never should have entered the draft in the first place," said Coffee, who left the University of Alabama after his junior year. "Football was no longer my dream. I found Christ in college. It changed my views on everything. But I still was a football player because it was expected of me, it was something I did all my life. I was basically wasting the [49ers'] time."
"His will, I felt, wasn't football. I felt like I forced football because everyone expected me to play football. He told me a long time ago to walk away from the game."
The 23-year-old's discussion with Barrows seemingly squashed the possibility that he'd go back on his retirement announcement.
"I've already told Christ it's time to go. I've already rung the bell. That's not going to happen," Coffee told Barrows.
San Francisco had been counting on Coffee to help spell starting RB Frank Gore, just as Coffee did during his rookie season. In 14 games last year -- including two starts -- Coffee carried the ball 83 times for 226 yards and a touchdown. Between Coffee and rookie Anthony Dixon, the 49ers were hoping to limit the beating Gore took in 2010. Most of that challenge will now fall on Dixon, unless the 49ers make a move to add another running back.
After Coffee's sudden announcement Friday, Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald tweeted, "Having covered 49ers RB Glen Coffee for 3 years, not surprised he retired. He has a higher call. Wouldn't shock me if he headed to ministry."
Coffee didn't specifically say that's in his plans after he returns to school at Alabama -- he's just six hours shy of his undergraduate degree in consumer affairs -- but he didn't rule it out either.
"There's going to be people that understand and there's going to be people that don't understand and don't care to understand," Coffee told Barrows. "They're going to feed off that negativity. That's life."
Thursday, August 12, 2010
It was homeschooling them.
Homeschooling them all...5 kids...no experience...2 brand spanking new English Language Learners, one not so new English Language Learner with obvious learning issues, one accelerated learner, and one right on target sweetie pie.
All by myself, uneducated in the ways of teaching, inexperienced as can be, and thinking to myself "Shoot God, you really know how to freak a gal out, don't you? Couldn't have asked anything a little less scary of me, could you?" and yet knowing full well that this wasn't really a choice I was being given, this was a calling I was being asked to acknowledge. Of course I DID have a choice and do every day of my life, for that is what free will is all about, but that doesn't mean I want to allow myself that choice to go against what it feels like God has asked of me.
Dominick tried to calm my fears about it, yet we both knew the burden rested solely on my shoulders for the most part and that I had his support but his way of truly supporting the effort was to go out and somehow earn enough greenbacks to keep me home to be able to do it.
I walked the floors countless sleepless evenings, crying and scared over any number of things, but this was the biggest one. I tried to imagine our first days home and where would I even begin, how would I start??? I told myself over and over again that I was not qualified to do this and yet knew our daughters would be so very vulnerable if we placed them in school, which is also an odd thing because they are both incredibly strong, but that vulnerability has played out in just what we are seeing right now...living the life of mermaids and playing with playdough, and the need to do things they would be ashamed to do in front of typical kids their age. Somehow, at a gut level I knew all of this (thanks for the wisdom and years of research, God!) and couldn't ignore it. I also was beginning to see things in Kenny that scared me, reinforcing my opinion that something wasn't right and his issues were far larger than just being home 3 years and needing more time. How would I be able to work with that? And how would I do all this and still give Matt and Josh what they needed?
OK..so some of those questions still remain, but this week they took their testing required by our program for the beginning of the year, and Mom got her report card. It was pretty darned good, if I say so myself, and I couldn't be more pleased.
And I finally let go of the breath I had been holding since December.
You won't believe this, we have been home a mere 6 months with the girls who spoke barely a lick of English.
Olesya tested out as reading at 2nd grade 3rd month and Angela at 3rd grade 2nd month!!!!!! Not an ounce of help, their test took them each close to two hours and their speed is slow, but man, I am STUNNED at their progress!! Olesya even tested at 3rd grade science! We have a ways to go with Language Arts, but Angela scored 2nd grade while Olesya struggles with the concepts on some things and scored below 2nd (they only start at 2nd with the scale).
Olesya was not reading well in Russian, and Angela had shared with me that there were often tears from her as she did her homework, but that she was a good student and cared a lot. For her to be reading this well in English after only having 2 1/4 years of school in Kazakhstan is a huge deal, heck it is a huge deal for both of them and Angela eagerly leaned over my shoulder after completing each test to see how she scored, and it was such a pleasure to watch her face light up to see the results of their hard work. And believe me, it has been HARD work...these girls have rocked it and never let up, and their reward came when seeing that score.
We had some success with Kenny as well, having tested for a baseline at the end of May, he showed a 5 word per minute increase and a small bump in reading level. While his comprehension is at 4th grade, it is his fluency that is getting in his way of taking off, but it looks like jumping back to beginning phonics and letting him read lots of "baby" books which he never had the chance to do in school as everyone kept moving ahead of him is helping.
Joshie took the test for the first time and scored mid 2nd grade on everything and beginning 3rd for math, all of which was no surprise to us and he is a steady little student who will do well.
Matthew quietly rocked the house and not yet entering 6th grade he scored mid-8th on science and math, and is essentially done with their scoring on reading at 10th grade level as that is the highest they go on this program. What I loved most was his quiet grin, and he walked away feeling no need whatsoever to brag to his siblings. Yet he cheered them all on when we were celebrating their successes.
Wanna know why going against birth order and all the adoption "rules" works in our house? Wanna know why both Angela and Kenny view Matt as their eldest sibling in all ways but a number? It is because of the character of this young man who leads the way all good leaders do...quietly and humbly, and walking in the way God has taught him too. The quietest one has never asserted his place, he simply reflects his maturity and thoughtfulness in non-showy ways and has earned the respect of every single person in our family because of it, including his parents.
So, we look forward to our vacation while still bringing books along so we don't loose all momentum. We recognize there are learning opportunities everywhere and take advantage of them. We know we have oodles of life learning to go with the girls and Kenny.
And me? I am smiling more and stressing a little less, knowing we are in our groove now and that I am not a total failure as I had anticipated I might be. I also rest in the knowledge that while this might not be everyone's idea of a life well lived, for me, it is. I have conquered yet another midnight monster and won, at least for now. I can feel relieved that I am not letting my kids down, at least for now. I can hang my head in shame as I realize how little I trusted God to "equip the called not call the equipped", and continue to trust that in the future as they grow older, somehow God will continue to equip me to do my job.
For this IS a job, believe me, it is not easy and it is thoroughly engaging despite the lack of a fat paycheck as a reward. No, my reward comes in the "light bulb" moments I get to see with my very own kids when they totally get something they didn't get 10 minutes ago. I get to be present for most of their learning and to watch the slow, steady gains and celebrate with them. I get to see the frustration and the tears as Angela had the other day trying to learn to make chance saying "This is SO hard" as she put her head on the table out of collective frustration over EVERYTHING and gave in to it for just a moment....and I could be right there to lift her up, let her burrow into my shoulder for a bit and whisper to her "You are strong, and everything has been so hard for the past 6 months...go ahead and cry, it's OK....you'll get it soon." I then had the ultimate pleasure of seeing her master it 10 minutes later and jump up and down saying "I can do this!"
Of course she can...they all can. So can I.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
But what many people simply don't understand is that we are not parenting the norm. We are parenting children whose childhoods were interrupted, or never really ever truly began. It creates within them a deep hunger for what was missed, and it is our gut feeling that if we don't somehow provide that in the ways we can, we will be in for big trouble down the road, for the soul never rests until it has been allowed to move through each developmental stage and process it, or at the very least to revisit a stage that was never fully experienced to work it all out.
Once in the past we had this happen, and here we are again. Angela and Olesya both asked us if they could have baby bottles. They were playing with our friends daughter and after she left one night Olesya said "I never had a baby bottle, I wish I have one." I explained that she most likely did have one but couldn't remember it, but that seemed to have little impact, and Angela jumped in saying "I want baby bottle too! Please Mama, we have baby bottle?" and then both proceeded to ask a couple more times before I realized this was one of those stages we need to revisit. Today at Walmart, along with a light bulb for an Easy Bake oven, we purchased 6 baby bottles.
They were opened up before we even left the parking lot.
Upon arrival at home, all 5 kids grabbed their baby bottles and filled them with milk or lemonade. We talked about being rocked as little babies, and Matthew grinned as he remembered the songs I made up and sang to him. I told them all they each had to let me rock them with their bottles, and Kenny reminded me that I did just that with him when he came home. What I loved most was that there wasn't a single moment of embarrassment out of any of them over this, and in fact when we had to go get haircuts each child brought their baby bottle along with them in the car, Olesya's tucked safely inside a handmade purse at her hip.
Weird? Yea, I'll give you that, but then nobody ever accused us of being normal. I'd much rather get strange looks from unknown others and meet our kids unique needs than to worry about what is being said behind our back. We had no time for rocking this evening, but I intend to do just that tomorrow, even Angela with her long, gangly legs looked at me eagerly when I offered. I can't imagine not doing it, for it is what our children need, and I am their mother...the one who is supposed to meet those nurturing needs.
This ongoing desire to step back in time, to be mothered and fathered by their new parents, is ramping up. Talking to Olesya yesterday about her birthday and being such a big girl she looked at me with pain filled eyes and said "But Mama...I not that old, I still a little, little girl, OK?" as she begged me to allow her to have the time she needs to step back, then gradually grow up at a slower pace.
I am grateful beyond words for the boys, who shrug their shoulders and say "Hand one over!" rather than hoot and holler about how silly or babyish it is.
Our little 11 year old needs to be 8 or 9 for awhile, or maybe even 4 or 5, and we are doing our darnedest to allow it for as long as we can. They both need to live in the magical world of the tooth fairy and Santa Clause, at least for a little while. They need to play with baby dolls and stuffed animals for as long as they might need to so that they can then gradually move forward at a speed that works for them...and they need to be protected while this process occurs. They need Barbies and Little Pet Shops, bubbles and glow sticks. They need lullabies and loving snuggles for a long time to come.
They also need the freedom to be the wise old woman that resides within each of them which makes herself known on occasion, and that wisdom deserves to be respected. It can be mind boggling difficult to keep up with, but recognizing the two worlds our daughters are trapped between is terribly important. It validates their life experience, and it keeps them from feeling so alone.
And after all, childhood is not that long anyway. Let 'em have it while they still can.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Monday was the 2nd of the 1st's...the first birthdays celebrated at home. Olesya turns 11 on the 12th, so we had her party that evening. 16 kids, 8 watermelons, and a ton of fun! I am NOT good at party planning or creative in any way, actually, so coming up with ideas is always a struggle. As I was on my way to the store yesterday I decided I might do a watermelon thing, so bought a couple carts full of watermelons and we were on our way. We had a watermelon eating contest, a seed spitting contest, a watermelon roll across our lawn and an attempt at a cake shaped like a watermelon in addition to our traditional LaJoy chocolate birthday cake with sprinkles on top and toothpicks in the middle. We lucked out and had terrific weather for it, despite the rain clouds that threatened for much of the afternoon. Our beautiful birthday girl was in Watermelon Princess heaven, and there were tons of girlie squeals and giggles the entire evening.
We had 16 boys and girls of all ages there, including Olesya's best friend...a 2 year old little sweetie who is the sister of Josh's best buddy. We had a long conversation a week ago about if it was OK to have a best friend who was so young. I pointed out that not a single friend of mine is my age, and that many are much older or at least a few years younger. I told her I thought it was wise of her to be open to having friends of all ages, as it opened up the world to her in ways others don't understand. She grinned, and that settled it, so she now has a new best friend whom she loves dearly.
Despite the chaos and mess, it was such a joy to finally have her home, to not be thinking of her halfway around the world without the chaos, laughter and cake. My heart is at peace now in a way it hasn't been for several years, and it is because of that smiling face and tender soul that has joined us along with her sister. Olesya is the sweetest daughter a mother could ever ask for, even Matthew wrote in her card how sweet she is and how much he loves her. We are a blessed family for a multitude of reasons, one of which is the presence of this wonderful, thoughtful little girl.
In the meantime, we still have quite a bit going on here at home before we leave Monday, so I had better get off this computer and get to work!
Sunday, August 08, 2010
With no shoes upon my feet
To share with you the last bite
Of bread I had to eat
I would swim out to save you
In your sea of broken dreams
When all your hopes are sinkin'
Let me show you what love means
Love can build a bridge
Between your heart and mine
Love can build a bridge
Don't you think it's time?
Don't you think it's time?
I would whisper love so loudly
Every heart could understand
That love and only love
Can join the tribes of man
I would give my heart's desire
So that you might see
The first step is to realize
That it all begins with you and me
When we stand together
It's our finest hour
We can do anything, anything
Keep believin' in the power
Love and only love
Love and only love
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Monday, August 02, 2010
This morning I was treated to breakfast in bed...sort of...I was already out of bed but Joshua made me waffles all by himself (toaster) and brought them to me on a tray. No reason at all, and when I asked he said "Umm...because I love you so much and wanted to show you." Could there be a better start to a day than that? I admit the day headed into a slow and steady descent from there, as we started school work and it seemed like everyones brain was taking a mini-vacation leaving me filled with doubts which I try to shove back into the shadows as quickly as possible. Olesya literally couldn't tell me what time it was as we practiced what time 1:00 was, Kenny misspelled everything under the sun...including the word "let". Matthew defined "solitary" in the oddest way ever...and much, much more fun was to be had at Casa LaJoy today as every single child had to redo some portion of at least one assignment.
I reminded myself that in my role as Evil Mother-Teacher, at least we COULD back up and redo assignments versus having to keep going and pretend we understood concepts as would happen in "real" school. Right??? Silver lining somewhere, right?
We took a trip to Box Canyon Falls in Ouray this weekend, which totally fascinated the girls who had never seen it before. Then we drove on up to another old mountain mining town, Silverton, where we had a lot of fun, saw a gunfight reenactment, and checked out all the old buildings. All in all it was a really great time, despite the rain that threatened throughout the day.
Sunny is settling in, and feels like she has always been with us. The little stinker sure is spoiled rotten and all the kids think it is somehow tragic if her tender little feet ever have to hit the ground...they have carried her just about everywhere and she spends alternate nights in the boys or girls room. We have a long way to go to train her, but are getting there a little at a time. I sure didn't want a true puppy, but if we had to get one this young and train it, she was the perfect little one. It is such a treat for me to be able to hold an animal again!! I have actually had to do very little of the work associated with her. Split 7 ways, it is very manageable and no one feels too overwhelmed with the care a puppy requires.
While the girls sort of kept to the theme with a bit of a Mardi Gras flair to it, the boys drifted off into super hero and military territory. All in all they had a terrific time even if they didn't turn out very African-esque!